Project communications are perhaps the single most important aspect of your project management plan. It is also one of the most overlooked from a planning perspective. This could be because project managers have a tendency to think they know what to communicate to whom and when. The truth is, communication is something that has to be talked about and planned in advance.
The PMBoK Guide – Fourth Edition (A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge) breaks communications management down into five sub categories:
- Identify Stakeholders: Identify all people and organinzations that will be impacted by the project as well as their specific involvement and impact on project success
- Plan Communications: Determine what each person or group actually needs to be made aware of and in what form. For example, you will perhaps send daily detailed communications to the project team via electronic communciations, but only a weekly wrap up via staff meeting to a project sponsor or executives
- Distribute Information: This means that you actually do what you said you were going to do in the previous item.
- Manage Stakeholder Expectations: Pay attention to your stakeholder’s needs. You don’t want to give them too much or too little information. Give them only what they need which may mean removing or even add to the information identified in step 2.
- Report Performance: Periodic analysis of baselines versus actuals during the project. This includes analysis of performace, risks and issues, work completed, upcoming tasks, summary of the approved changes, and others.
Communication is a critical piece of the project health. We are always communicating with our teams and other stakeholders. If we neglect to plan the communciations up front, it is almost guaranteed that something will get missed. When things get missed, we lose out on opportunities to make vital corrections, learn of a new direction, or even a pat on the back every now and then.
I know I have simplified things a bit, especially as they relate to the PMP exam, but for daily business, these are the basics. Sometimes, the projects are small and greatly simplified. This doesn’t mean that these steps should be overlooked. It merely means that the steps are that much easier to follow.